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Staff writer

With Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s battered administration keeping afloat largely because of a weak opposition camp, the current ordinary Diet session ended Thursday after 106 bills were passed.

A supplementary budget for fiscal 1998 was enacted Wednesday after the ordinary session was extended for eight days beyond its 150-day term. Despite Hashimoto’s sagging popularity and widespread criticism of his management of the economy, the prime minister has managed to get most of what he had wanted, including budgetary measures to help prop up the sluggish economy.

However, 20 government-proposed bills and about 20 bills sponsored by lawmakers will have to be carried over to an extraordinary Diet session expected to convene in late July, after the July 12 Upper House election. These include a government information disclosure bill, political reform bills and a set of legislative steps necessary to implement updated guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is planning the extraordinary session to pass, among other things, a set of bills to help financial institutions write off nonperforming loans and a bill to help accelerate the disposal of 27.8 trillion yen in debts left over by the former Japanese National Railways.

The ordinary session approved such key legislation as an administrative reform bill, bills to help the “Big Bang” financial liberalization measures, a revision of the U.N. peacekeeping operations law, a soccer lottery, a nonprofit organization bill and a bill for extending financial aid to survivors of natural disasters.

The administrative reform law sets the framework for streamlining central government operations by reducing 22 ministries and agencies to one Cabinet office and 12 ministries.

Hashimoto has pledged to start the new administrative system in January 2001. A government panel to be created next month will work out details of the reform measures, including drawing up bills to set up each of the 13 new government bodies.

Opposition parties continue to criticize the law, saying it will only combine existing ministries and will not lead to the slimmer and more efficient administration Hashimoto had promised.

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